Here’s proof that anything is possible if you have a dog by your side. Thomas Panek is 48 years old, and president and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which provides trained service dogs for the blind. He made history by becoming the first blind man to complete the New York City Half-Marathon. Panek was able to finish the race with the help of three guide dogs: Gus, Waffle, and Westley.
The New York Half Marathon runs 13.1 miles starting at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, runs along FDR drive, and ends in Central Park. Westley, Gus, and Waffle were chosen from Guiding Eyes’ current training team of 7 dogs.
Westley, a two-year-old, handsome, black lab accompanied Panek on the first five miles of the race. He then passed the torch to his littermate and sister, Waffle.
Waffle ran the next five miles. She’s the fastest runner on Panek’s team and can run a mile in six minutes!
Gus is Panek’s own guide dog, and the oldest member of the team at 7-years-old. He finished up the last 3 miles of the race and crossed the finish line at Panek’s side.
Each dog set their own pace and Panek was happy to keep up as needed. The safety and well-being of the dogs was of the utmost importance. Veterinarians and volunteers were stationed along the route to make sure the dogs were happy, hydrated, and safe. Each dog wore little boots to keep his paws safe – Westley’s had to be custom made since his paws are so big!
The team has been training since early February and it really paid off! Thomas Panek lost his vision in his 20s and has a guide dog of his own. He is the first blind man to complete the New York City Half Marathon – and it’s all thanks to his incredible team – the trainers, the sponsors, and of course, these amazing dogs!